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Cops and Courts

15 indicted on drug charges

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    Bruce Bishop / Chronicle U.S. marshals arrest a man identified as Bryce Babics on Thursday at Super 8 Motel on Lorain Road in North Ridgeville.



Fifteen people, including 11 Lorain County residents, have been indicted on charges they sold or conspired to sell fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine in Lorain in the past 18 months.

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Lorain residents Cesar “Bebo” Melendez-Perez, 31; Freddie Sanchez, 32; Anthony “Wax” Washington, 21; John “Fat John” Massey-Lovejoy, 37; twin brothers Jonas Pagan and Jamie Pagan, 25; Thomas Parker, 29; Ricky Londa, 26; and Bryce Babics, 30.

Other Lorain County residents who were indicted are Toby Lewis, 24, of Elyria, and Ramon “Mon” Feliciano-Montanez, 29, of Sheffield Lake.

Also indicted were Christopher Kovach, 29, of Parma; Princeton “Prince” Edwards, 29, of Columbus; Erick “Abel” Jiminez-Rodriguez, 30, of Manati, Puerto Rico; and Xavier “Feo” Robles-Cruz, 32, of Bronx, New York.

Deputy U.S. Marshals arrested Babics at a Super 8 Motel on Lorain Road in North Ridgeville at 10:20 a.m. Thursday. Anne Murphy, supervisory deputy of the U.S. Marshals Enforcement Division in Cleveland, said Babics tried to flee but was quickly captured.

There were no injuries during the arrest, and Babics was scheduled to appear at the federal courthouse in Cleveland for a hearing, Murphy said.

The charges were filed as part of Operation S.O.S., or “Synthetic Opioid Surge,” which aims to reduce the supply of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil. Lorain County was one of several area chosen as a pilot site for the program; 80 people have been indicted on federal drug charges as a result of investigations in the county.

The defendants sold opioids and cocaine for profit “at a time when thousands of people across the country are dying, including people in Lorain County,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said.

“We have now indicted more than 80 people on the federal level as part of Operation S.O.S. and remain committed to working collaboratively to address the drug overdose epidemic,” he said in a news release accompanying news of the federal charges. “The message should be clear to would-be drug dealers in Lorain County — if you sell illegal narcotics, you are going to be prosecuted by the feds.”

A 43-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland alleges that Melendez-Perez, Robles-Cruz and Jiminez-Rodriguez, working together, purchased large amounts of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine that they then distributed to other dealers in Lorain, Cleveland, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Feliciano-Montanez, Edwards, Sanchez and Kovach allegedly got heroin, fentanyl and cocaine from Melendez-Perez, then resold it around Lorain. Authorities said Edwards and Feliciano-Montanez also distributed fentanyl, heroin and cocaine to other traffickers in Lorain, including Massey-Lovejoy, Washington, Babics and Lewis.

Members of the conspiracy also cooked cocaine into crack cocaine for sale to customers in Lorain, according to the indictment. In total, federal authorities allege the group possessed at least 500 grams of cocaine or cocaine mixture; 400 grams of fentanyl or a fentanyl mixture; 100 grams or more of substances containing heroin; and 28 grams of crack cocaine, according to the indictment.

Police and federal agents identified multiple incidents between August and June 5 in which the defendants sold, offered to sell or coordinated sales of illegal drugs. The indictment describes sales at Midway Mall and South Leona Street in Elyria and on East 32nd Street and East 42nd Street in Lorain.

Transcripts of wiretaps in the indictment list the defendants discussing prices for drugs, how much money they have to buy them, comparing prices and catching one talking about having to pick up his son from day care. One also discussed the conspiracy with an inmate being held in an Ohio prison, according to the indictment.

Several members of the alleged conspiracy additionally were charged with firearms violations for having weapons despite being convicted felons forbidden from possessing them.

Washington also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking for having a Springfield 9 mm handgun despite previous convictions for domestic violence and drug trafficking.

Kovach is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for allegedly having a Kahr .380-caliber handgun, despite a previous conviction for felonious assault, and Melendez-Perez is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for allegedly having a Diamondback 9 mm handgun, despite a previous conviction for domestic violence.

Lewis is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking for allegedly having a Glock .40-caliber handgun, despite previous convictions for domestic violence, drug charges and other crimes.

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of the firearms along with approximately $9,375 in cash.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Lorain and Elyria police departments and the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force all participate in Operation S.O.S. Officials from the Lorain and Elyria departments thanked their federal partners for their assistance in getting the illegal drugs off the street.

“We have always been appreciative of the level of cooperation between the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in this area in combating the drug issues that plague our communities,” Lorain police Capt. Roger Watkins said.

“The S.O.S. project through the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been very successful for all of Lorain County,” Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said. “We are very grateful for the efforts of all the federal agencies to help us fight the heroin/fentanyl crisis.”

“These arrests will make Lorain County safer,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin in the news release. “This group is responsible for selling large amounts of fentanyl, heroin and crack in our community.”

Chronicle-Telegram Bruce Walton contributed to this story. Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

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